Food

Hyderabad-based entrepreneur Sateesh Kumar’s organic journey began with a pinch of turmeric

Turmeric produced at Lakadong in Meghalaya has the highest percentage of curcumin

Turmeric produced at Lakadong in Meghalaya has the highest percentage of curcumin | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Hyderabad-based entrepreneur Sateesh Kumar Kemburu never imagined that his chronic cough in 2014 would lead him to the world of organic farming. Vexed with his persistent dry cough, he tried ingesting turmeric on his doctor’s advice. “When I did not get any relief, the doctor asked me about the curcumin percentage in the turmeric that I took. That was the first time I had heard about curcurmin,” he recollects.

His research on curcumin’s medicinal properties made him realise that the turmeric produced at Lakadong in the Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya has the highest percentage of curcumin, due to the climatic conditions and farming methods in the region. He procured the turmeric from Meghalaya and used it for 15 days. Then, convinced of its benefits, Sateesh took a leap of faith to enter the organic food market.

Organic venture

Sateesh Kumar Kemburu

Sateesh Kumar Kemburu | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A former television producer, Sateesh also runs a technology company, Digital Eyecon, an advertising agency and a digital academy, with the support of his wife, Kavita. His turmeric journey began with the online store Nature’s Box in 2017 ( www.naturesbox.in) with products sourced from two farmers and cultivated on eight acres in Meghalaya. “Organic doesn't necessarily mean medicinally rich food. Nature’s Box specialises in sowing and harvesting from regions known for the world’s highest curcumin turmeric,” he says.

Nature’s Box has approvals from USFDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), FSSI (Food Safety and Standard Authority of India) and India Organic certification given by Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and mentions 8-10 % of curcumin in the Ultima variant of turmeric grown in Lakadong, Meghalaya and 6-8 % for the premium variant grown in the Eastern Ghats.

Unlike the boil-sun dry-reboil and powder process (turmeric roots are boiled, sundried, reboiled to create turmeric powder) followed by growers all over the country, the turmeric in Lakadong is cured with solar methodology. “In Lakadong, turmeric is sliced and dried in a glass solar dryer. In this way, the turmeric is dried faster and without any extractions. Also due to climatic and soil conditions in Meghalaya, the Lakadong turmeric rhizome retains the curcumin and oleoresin oils,” explains Sateesh. He adds that he tried growing the Lakadong variety of turmeric in Paaderu and Chintapalli in Andhra Pradesh but did not succeed as the soil, water and climatic conditions yielded different results.

Kavita

Kavita | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

It took two years for Sateesh to convince farmers in Lakadong to grow crops for him. “It was our commitment to organic farming, encouragement and prompt payments to them that gave them confidence in us,” says Sateesh’s wife Kavita, who plays a significant role in managing the company’s operations. Over five years, he has been able to acquire (via contract farming) 70 acres of land across India where 40 farmers in Meghalaya, Nagaland, Idukki in Kerala and East and West Godavari grow honey, multi-grain flour that includes wheat, ragi, jowar and bajra and spices like pepper, clove and cardamom, which are sold online across India, as well as in a few supermarkets in Hyderabad.

“Piperine, an alkaloid present in black pepper, and curcumin in turmeric are like best friends as turmeric is better absorbed in our body when they are added together,” he says explaining how the company has expanded to different products.

While Sateesh travels 20 days a month meeting farmers and checking on product quality, Kavita looks into the financials and marketing aspects. This year, she also managed the Nature’s Box stall at Numaish exhibition in Hyderabad. A significant aspect of a healthy lifestyle depends on the kind of food we eat and Sateesh hopes his initiative paves the way for a positive change that is sustainable for us and the soil.

Sateesh Kumar at a farm

Sateesh Kumar at a farm | Photo Credit: Special arrangement


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Printable version | May 20, 2022 12:33:29 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/hyderabad-based-entrepreneur-sateesh-kumars-organic-journey-began-with-a-pinch-of-turmeric/article65425809.ece